To avoid death, male orbweb spiders catapult after mating

(ORDO NEWS) — For male orbitrek spiders, love bites. If they do not run away immediately after mating, they are immediately eaten by the female.

But a new study shows that males use a trick to avoid that fate: They catapult away from their cannibalistic mates in a never-before-described arachnid gymnastics.

To get a better look at how the males make this spectacular escape, the researchers recorded orbitopter (Philoponella prominens) mating in the lab using high-definition video, where they carefully captured precious post-coital moments (see video above).

From video footage, they calculated that males eject at an average of 65 centimeters per second, and that they rotate nearly 173 times per second as they run through the air, the group reports today in Current Biology.

The scientists then looked at the male orbots under a microscope. They found that when the male pushes away from his female, hydraulic pressure in the joints of the front legs allows them to expand at lightning speed, throwing the spider back.

In addition, each joint has sheath-like tissues that envelop each joint, making them more elastic and allowing them to extend and contract better.

The researchers believe that female cannibalism and male ejection evolved “antagonistically” with each other. Next, they hope to study the mating choice of females – and find out if the females choose those who are most adept at acrobatic avoidance of their postcoital courtship.


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